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Monday, 30 March 2009

"Woman with sister woman?"

Katharine L. Aller was an American poetess who flourished in the 1940's. She composed this hymn in 1944 to the tune TOULON:

God of a universe within whose bounds
Thy vast creation moves in ordered space;
Sons of a nation born of faith and wounds,
We seek from Thee our true appointed place.

Within Thy purpose, through the ages’ span,
We would discern our country’s destined role:
In all our councils, man with brother man,
We would obey the law of love’s control.

By all the grief man’s strife with man entails,
By all the woe that stalks oppression’s train,
By Thy great sacrifice which still prevails,
Free us from lust for all unworthy gain.

So shall we deal in justice like to Thine;
So shall the love of mercy light our land,
Marking the footprints of the Love Divine,
Where we walk humbly, guided by Thy hand.

Lead us into the light that shines from Thee
For all mankind; for ne’er shall it fulfill
Its pure effulgence till all men are free,
Free through the truth which is th’ eternal will.

©1945 by The Hymn Society of America.

Now, note that while Katharine is obviously a woman, she identifies the corporate entity of which she is a part indifferently as Sons, man with brother man, all mankind, and all men. Yet she is obviously under no delusions that by using such language, she is excluding most of the population, including herself, from the prayer.

But even if the author were a man, only one of these labels would be considered acceptable in these last days, when "Bring Me Men," the opening words of Sam W. Foss' poem The Coming American had to be expunged from a stone arch overlooking the Air Force Academy's parade grounds just to avoid offending the weaker sex. But Katharine Aller--to say nothing of Sam Foss--would be at a loss to account for this removal. And ironically, it was the modern female performer Lamya who finally set Foss' words to music, incorporating its opening lines into the lyrics of her song, "Empires," without altering the gender:

Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains;
Men with empires in their purpose
And new eras in their brains.

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